After this there was a pause in the proceedings. The Emperor retired and the guests went into the anterooms. Soon all were recalled, and the Emperor reappeared. There had been a quick change in the meantime. He was now wearing his new modern uniform, as Generalissimo of the Korean Army. Two high decorations—one, if I mistake not, from the Emperor of Japan—hung on his breast. He looked much more manly in his new attire. In front of him was placed his new headdress, a peaked cap with a fine plume sticking up straight in front. The music now was no longer the ancient Korean, but modern airs from the very fine European-trained band attached to the palace. The Korean players had gone, with the old dress and the old life, into limbo.
The Japanese Acting Resident-General and military commander, General Baron Hasegawa, strong and masterful-looking, stepped to the front with a message of welcome from his Emperor. He was followed by the doyen of the Consular Corps, M. Vincart, with the Consular greetings. This Consular message had been very carefully sub-edited, and all expressions implying that the Governments of the different representatives approved of the proceedings had been eliminated. Then the coronation was over.
Two figures were conspicuous by their absence. The ex-Emperor was not present According to the official explanation, he was unable to attend because “his uniform had not been finished in time,” Really, as all men knew, he was sitting resentful and protesting within a few score yards of the spot where his son was crowned.
The second absent figure was the Russian Consul-General, M. de Plancon. It was announced that M. de Plancon was late, and so could not attend. Seeing that M. de Plancon lived not ten minutes’ walk from the palace, and that the guests had to wait nearly an hour after the time announced before the ceremony began, he must have overslept very much indeed on that particular morning. Oddly enough, M. de Plancon is usually an early riser.
A JOURNEY TO THE “RIGHTEOUS ARMY”
It was in the autumn of 1906. The Korean Emperor had been deposed and his army disbanded. The people of Seoul, sullen, resentful, yet powerless, victims of the apathy and folly of their sires, and of their own indolence, saw their national existence filched from them, and scarce dared utter a protest. The triumphant Japanese soldiers stood at the city gates and within the palace. Princes must obey their slightest wish, even to the cutting of their hair and the fashioning of their clothes. General Hasegawa’s guns commanded every street, and all men dressed in white need walk softly.